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Chicago Marathon 2018

Chicago Marathon 2018

By: Matt Setlack

This post will describe my experience at the Chicago Marathon on 07 Oct 2018. Although I have participated in six marathons when I was 17 to 21 years old, this was the first marathon that I seriously trained for and raced competitively (that was the plan anyway). At first, I was apprehensive about sharing my experience as the Chicago Marathon was most certainly not sunshine and rainbows. However, sometimes you can learn just as much, if not more, from a less than ideal race experience than from a good one.

Tues 02 Oct 2018 - Travel from the Great white north

Because of the poor road conditions, it took Emily and I about 9 hours to drive from Cold Lake to Calgary. As we got closer to Calgary, the weather deteriorated and we saw numerous vehicles in the ditch. It was so icy that most sensible motorists were driving around 70 kph rather than the posted speed limit of 110 kph.

A motorist who was driving 100 meters in front of us lost control, spun around three times, struck the front end of his vehicle on the centre median and then slid into the ditch backwards. We stopped to make sure he was okay (he was) and waited with him until a tow truck arrived. Further on, we had to divert around a section of road that was closed to traffic. There was a snowfall warning in effect for Calgary and I saw on the news that this was the most snow Calgary had seen on 02 Oct in the past 104 years!

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Wed 03 Oct 2018 - 2nd day of travel

I decided to fly out of Calgary rather than Edmonton because there was a direct flight from Calgary to Chicago O’Hare, the flight was much less expensive, the flight options were more numerous, and the flight was only 2:38 versus close to 6-7 hours flying out of Edmonton.

The international departures area of the Calgary Airport was extremely nice. It looked new and recently renovated. The sun was shining through the big windows and it was quiet like a library. Hardly anyone was around and there were plenty of comfortable seats.

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The Chicago O’Hare airport looked quite industrial. I rented a car and drove to the Marriott hotel in Burr Ridge (30 minutes SW of downtown Chicago). Thanks to Emily for finding and booking this for me.

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Thurs 04 Oct 2018 - In search of the Vaporfly 4% Racing Flat

This is a story in itself. If you’re interested in hearing about my impressions of the Nike Vaporfly 4% racing flat, what Nike touts as the fastest running shoe on earth, please click the “REVIEWS” section above.

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Fri 05 Oct 2018 - Race Expo Day

I drove to the race expo and joined the 45,000 other runners to pick up my race bib number. It was extremely busy, noisy and crowded and after an hour I was ready to leave. Most runners there were walking at a “Sunday Stroll” pace rather than the “move with a sense of purpose” pace that I like.

Thankfully, I received the “discounted parking rate” of only $10 USD (compared to the $23 USD regular parking rate). The parking company is making $450,000 USD on parking alone over two days for this event. Not a bad deal for them. haha.

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In the evening, I ran 30 minutes on the hotel Life Fitness amazing treadmill. I ran with energy gels in my back pocket and in my hands. 4 gels in the centre back pocket of my Ronhill Everyday Split Shorts (amazing shorts, by the way) had a tendency to bounce up and down (each gel is about 32g so that is 128g total of gels). 3 gels or less, however, did not bounce up and down. I decided that I would carry one gel in each hand and two gels in the back pocket. When I’m down to 3 gels, I planned to place 3 in the back pocket because otherwise I might have a tendency to drift, while being laterally unbalanced. haha

Food

I ate all my meals from the local grocery store called Brookhaven Marketplace. It is similar to Sprouts grocery store. They have a lot of imported foods and the prices reflect this. I usually buy a pre-cooked pasta dinner or salmon with rice dinner for $6 to $9 USD with a bottle of apple juice. I like that I can see exactly what I am getting and I also like the price (compared to eating at a restaurant).

Marathon Fuel

I was a little uncertain of what to eat during the marathon. I never eat anything on any runs even for long runs up to 2:15. There is a lot of selection of different gels, drink mixes and energy chews. They all seem slightly different in terms of composition but I’m sure they all do the same thing.

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I planned to take a gel before the start and every 30 minutes after that so I planned to carry 4 gels (1 in each hand and 2 in my back centre pocket). I also planned to to drink a lot of water and gatorade while on the course especially during the first half as was recommended to me by my friend, Karl Augsten (who ran the 2017 New York City Marathon in 2:31).

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Sun 07 Oct 2018 - Race day

I thought I felt quite good going into this race. I woke up at 3:30 am and left the hotel at 4:15 am. I arrived at the parking garage beneath Grant Park at 4:55 am and was ready for the race well in advance. I was so early that it was still dark out and difficult to see anything inside the portable toilets. It was exciting to warm up with some of the world’s best marathon runners including Galen Rupp. I also saw Dayna Pidhoresky and Melanie Myrand during the warm-up.

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Start

I followed Tom McGrath’s (an experienced marathoner) advice to start on runners left at the very start. This worked out really well and there were numerous other Canadians in the same area including Brian Yorke, Eric Bang, Kyle Wyatt, Shelley Doucet, myself, and another Canadian female racer.

For the start of a race with 45,000 runners, I thought there would at least be a “3, 2, 1 go” countdown or “on your marks, get set, go” but there was nothing, just the pop of the starter pistol. Thankfully, I could see a bystander (maybe she worked for the race organization) holding up one hand and clicking down the seconds with each finger in silence.

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0-5 km

I was very surprised at the thick density of runners from the start right up until at least 5 km. It seemed that everyone went out quite fast. Around 4 km or so, I caught up to some of the best elite women racers in the world and ran next to them, with a bunch of other men, for a few kilometres.

My goal time for 5 km was 17:05 and I went through in around 16:45 to 16:50. I felt very relaxed even though I was not drafting behind anyone.

5-10 km

I still felt quite fresh as I continued to run by myself. At 30 minutes into the race, I ate a gel with water. Throughout most of the race, with the exception of the last 5 to 10 km, I took gatorade at every station.

My goal time for 10 km was 34:10 and I went through in around 34:05, I think. I was still ahead of schedule.

10-15 km

At 12.5 km, the course makes a big “u-turn” and you go from running north to running south. As soon as I turned the corner to head south, I could feel a headwind and the next guys ahead of me were at least 100m ahead (Paddy Birch in a black Team Canada singlet with a group of guys). Still running by myself.

51:15 was my goal to go through 15 km and I remember being ahead of pace at this point.

15-20 km

I still felt quite good. I continued to take in one gel every 30 minutes. I was still running into a headwind. At about 20 km, a guy in a blue singlet ran past me and made a motion for me to tuck in behind him. That was awfully kind. The thing I love about the marathon is that everyone seems to be willing to help out everyone else (rather than directly competing against them which tends to happen in other races).

21.1 km (half way)

My goal for 21.1 km (half-marathon) was 1:12:04 and I went through half in 1:12:04 feeling smooth, strong and in control. Perfect.

20-25 km

After 21.1 km, I was still keeping a decent pace but was starting to slow down. I was still running by myself. I really started to notice that my new Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flats were not as comfortable as I thought.

25-30 km

This is when things really started to get ugly. 27 km was definitely the point at which I thought about dropping out of the race. I was still by myself, people started to pass me and it continued to rain. At about 27 or 28 km (around 90 minutes into the race), my condition seemed to deteriorate rapidly.

At about 28 km, I started to feel a little twinge in my right leg. I had felt this before (at a much lower magnitude) while running on the treadmill in the two days leading up to the race. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. However, little things become big things very quickly (and they magnify not linearly but exponentially in a marathon). It was more than a simple discomfort. It was at a level where it was affecting the amount of power I could push off from my right leg with. My left leg felt fine.

From about 27 or 28 km onwards, I was no longer “racing”, I was simply trying to get to the finish line. Not even get to the finish line quickly, just get to the finish line so I could get out of there.

30-35 km

Things were quite bad in this section, I definitely thought about dropping out but did not want to let down my family, friends and all the people who had supported me. I thought that I may as get to the finish line. Besides, I had already paid the $220 USD entry fee, paid for the airline ticket, hotel, etc. May as well get my moneys worth.

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For pretty much the entire second half of the race, other runners passed me; only a few people at first but then more and more people as I progressively slowed down. It was extremely embarrassing to be passed by so many runners.

What went wrong?

I think it was a combination of factors.

Pacing - It is possible that I went out a little too quick in the first half. My half personal best is 1:09:24. I ran 1:12:04 for the first half in the Chicago Marathon, which I thought (at the time) was quite conservative. Even if I had run 1:15 for the first half, I would have still had a faster finish time overall.

Right Leg - The biggest/main issue was my right leg (I think it was the hamstring behind my leg and deep down in my gluteus maximus). My right leg didn't feel 100% while running in the 2 days before the race. There was severe discomfort/pain in my right leg that got progressively worse. It was not just uncomfortable; I felt physically unable to generate any useful power out of the right leg. Not sure how this issue came about. A year or two ago, I felt the exact same thing in my right leg. It could be an overuse injury or maybe sitting for long periods of time could affect it as well (i.e. driving long distances like 9 hours and sitting for many hours each day for many months/years).

I think I was in 70th place around 21km but as I gradually slowed down, many many many people passed me (about 130 or so) and I ended up in about 190th or 200th place overall. It was extremely embarrassing. I considered dropping out around 30km but instead decided to jog easy to the finish (at a pace that was slower than my easy pace).

Gels - I took a gel every 30 minutes as directed by my coach (at 30 minutes into race, 1 hour, 1.5 hours, 2 hours). I definitely felt like my stomach/digestive system/bowel) did not like those gels. I had some minor stomach cramps but nothing major. I considered using the bathroom during the race but thought I would lose more time than I would gain.

Racing Flats - I think the brand new orange Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flats could have affected me as well. I think the extreme stiffness of that shoe could have made me use different muscle groups that I'm not used to. In addition, the forefoot and mid midfoot is quite narrow and after wearing the racing flat for 2.5+ hours, the centre of both of my forefeet were both blistered/skin folded over from being squashed inside the shoe. The shoes felt fine during the two 30 minute runs I had done in them before the race.

Weather Conditions - The temperature was around +10 to +15C. Intermittent rain. Wet roads. Fairly windy. I ran most of the race by myself, which was ironic because I believe there were about 45,000 runners in the Chicago Marathon. Everyone faced the same conditions and therefore this was not really a contributing factor.

Possible Contributing Factor - I think when things are not going well in the non-running aspects of your life, they can negatively affect your training and racing performance. The opposite is also true (as was the case for me in 2017). For example, losing half your life savings because you were posted to Cold Lake (the mini Fort McMurray) and bought a house just before the worst housing market downturn in the past two decades.

Overall Thoughts on the race

Overall, I am extremely disappointed in my race especially considering how much time, effort and money that I put into it. It was very likely one of, if not THE, worst race I have ever run. It most certainly did not represent what I was capable of. However, I can honestly say that I don't think I could have done much about it on that day. Even if I went out slower, I think the leg issue would have still arisen. I am still trying to determine what good/lessons learned I can pull from the Chicago Marathon.

I ran the first half in 1:12:04 (3:25/km avg) and the second half in 1:26:36 (4:06/km avg). I finished the race in 2:38:40, which although is a new personal best marathon time for me, it is not the time I was hoping for and capable of. The marathon is a beast and if anything is bothering you before the race, it will be magnified on race day.

What I would do differently next time

Trying new things before a 42 km race is a bad idea. Before this marathon, I had never used gels/water/gatorade on any run (even 2:15 long training runs). I also had never raced in the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flat before (I only ran two easy runs of 30 minutes each).

Pay close attention to any aches/discomforts in the months, weeks and days leading up to a marathon. Don’t assume slight pains won't manifest into agony on race day. Consider not starting if there is any doubt regarding injury.

Thanks for reading!

What it Feels Like to Run 28 km Every Day for a Month

What it Feels Like to Run 28 km Every Day for a Month

By: Matt Setlack

I have run more per day in the past month than I have ever run in my entire life.

To be exact, my Strava profile tells me that I ran 867 km between 01 and 31 May 2018, which is an average distance of about 28 km per day, everyday (while working a full time job). It took about 74 hours of running to cover this distance, which is about 2 hours 23 minutes of running each day. This article will shed some light on how and, maybe more importantly, why I did this. Running and completing the AETE Step Challenge are intertwined so they will be both discussed in this article.

My Strava training log showing distance run in km.

Q & A

Why did I run this much?

Firstly, I wanted to win the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) Step Challenge and earn two days off work. Secondly, I want to build a solid base of training in preparation for the upcoming summer racing season. I also saw it as a challenge and I wanted to see if I could break 1 million steps in the month of May. I did so by doing 1,060,623 steps between 01 and 31 May 2018. That's an average of just over 30,000 steps per day. 

How did our team do?

I was on Team Charlie with Capt Scott Blakie, MCpl John Visser and Cpl JC Bouchard-Frigon. We placed 1st overall with a total step count of 4,086,963 for the month. Individually, I walked the 6th most steps. Perhaps what amazes me the most is the fact that I ran 867 km and yet, still placed 6th overall. If I ran this far, I cannot imagine how many km the five people ahead of me walked/jog/ran. I have an incredible amount of respect for them, especially considering that many of them have children at home. 

How did I run so much?

  1. I made running a priority in my life
  2. I remembered that "you become what you think about" (so be careful what you think about) - having a positive attitude is like a chain reaction.
  3. It is A LOT easier to do many short runs rather than one long run (i.e. it's much easier to run 3 x 40 mins rather than 120 minutes (2 hrs) straight). It also gives your body time to rest/recover/rehydrate/renourish (eat food)
  4. Time - running this much takes a huge amount of time. However, one thing I realized was how much time I wasted staring at a screen (often on social media) outside of working hours. Running this much really reduced the amount of time I spend in front of an electronic device. 
  5. Setting goals is incredibly important - Without goals, you have nothing. It's what drives me and gives me direction. In running, I often register for races and set time or place goals for myself. This keeps my working towards something tangible. 
  6. I was accountable to my team - during the step challenge, I texted my team the number of steps I had done the day before. This really motivated me to try and get as many steps as possible. In running, it's really important to have a coach who you can report back to, otherwise, it's way too easy to skip a workout/run or run less than planned. Being a member of a team really helped. I did not want to let my teammates down.
  7. I did not become a slave to Strava or my GPS watch - I rarely look at my GPS watch; I just start it at the beginning and stop it at the end. I usually don't even stop it when I bend down to tie up my shoes. 99% of my training is done by effort.
  8. I don't tie my shoes...ever - I just slip my feet and out. This saves me at least 5-7 mins per day.
  9. Routine - having a set routine with the same timings everyday made it a lot easier. When things change like during travel, that's when it becomes a lot more challenging to train.
  10. I rarely drove the car anywhere - Instead, I ran. On my run commute home, I pass right by the grocery store so can easily pick up food for dinner.

What was my typical day like?

  • 0600 - wake up
  • 0645 - run commute to work (5 miles in 40 minutes)
  • 0725 - arrive at work, shower, change into work clothes, walk 1.1km (15 mins) to French class
  • 0800-1200 - French class
  • 1200-1300 - "lunch" break (run 5 miles/40 minutes on the treadmill 1% incline)
  • 1300-1630 - work at AETE
  • 1645 - leave work to run commute home (short way is 5 miles/40 mins, long way is 23km/1:45)
  • 2000 - go for a short walk with Emily
  • 2130 to 2200 - go to bed

Note: AETE normally has PT (gym) class on Tues and Thurs mornings. However, since I was in French class the entire month of May, I was unable to participate in morning PT and had to do the stepping outside of working hours.

My Strava training log showing hours run.

What did I eat?

In the morning, I bring a bag of food on my back (5-10 lbs worth). I run with a Ronhill Commuter Xero 10L + 5L pack and it works very well (over 2,000 miles on it so far and it is still going strong). I eat constantly during the day instead of eating a bunch of food at once. I like REAL food (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, carrots, bananas, celery, cucumbers, peanut butter sandwiches on grainy bread, cheese, yogurt and sometimes Clif bars). I drink water constantly and have a 1L water bottle on my desk all the time. I make sure my urine rarely, if ever, looks like apple juice (it should be clear like water).

How did I not get injured (esp. after running 250 km in last week)?

There are a number of reasons I did not get injured and did not get sick:

  • I think my body was fairly used to the distance. I paid very close attention to how I was feeling and ran slower or less distance if I did not feel 100%. 
  • Gradual buildup of weekly distance. The weekly distance leading up to May was: 29/67/102/108/127/180 km so I would say that I gradually (for the most part) increased the weekly distance). Before I did the 250 km week, I had already run around 180 km per week for the previous three weeks.
  • I switched running shoes everyday - I never wore the same pair of shoes two days in a row and the shoes that I did wear were relatively new.
  • Road surface - because the roads are cambered, I ran on alternating sides. On busier roads or roads with less of a shoulder, I ran facing traffic and on wider/slower roads, I ran with traffic.
  • Pace - the pace for almost all my training is quite slow.
  • Soft surface - For my lunch runs, I ran on the treadmill at 1% incline or on the Lynx Trail, which is mostly sand. I avoid concrete sidewalks like the plague.

What did I wear?

For shoes, I mostly wore the Hoka Clifton 4 and 5, Nike Pegasus 35 (orange shoes in photos below), Adidas Solar Glide ST and Salomon Sense Ride. I usually wear a white hat with a black under beak, polarized Zizu TRX sunglasses, lightweight Ronhill Stride S/S crew t-shirt (or a bright yellow or orange t-shirt), Ronhill Everyday Split shorts (really good proper running shorts), lightweight hilly mono skin socks or Wigwam Running Room polyester socks, a Garmin 230 GPS watch, Ronhill Stride Windspeed jacket and Ronhill Commuter Xero 10L + 5L pack for run commuting. Last but certainly not least, I carry two iPod Shuffles with electronic dance music and sometimes famous speeches or motivational music.

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AETE Step Challenge

It all started with the inaugural AETE Step Challenge, which was the creation of CWO Howell. AETE members voluntarily broke themselves up into teams of four and then walked..and walked...and walked. The team who accumulated the most number of steps in the month of May would be granted two days off work and the 2nd place team would receive one day off work. The purpose of the Step Challenge was to promote an active lifestyle at and outside of work.

At the start of the Step Challenge, the PSP came to AETE and offered a body composition test for anyone interested. They also returned at the end of the Step Challenge to do another body composition test (the results of this test did not factor into the scores). Steps were reported each morning to designated individuals within the unit.

Team Charlie stats

Step Challenge Progression 

Our team followed a Blitzkrieg strategy from the beginning hoping that by getting so far ahead of everyone else from the very beginning that others would become so demoralized that they would not pursue. I believe this partially worked. The only thing was, it wasn't just pushing hard from the beginning and then slowing down, we pushed hard from the beginning and kept pushing hard the entire month. I thought everyone would go out super hard and then fizzle out. However, I was really surprised when people went out hard and kept going.

The first thing I noticed was everyone seemed to be walking a lot more at work. I saw more people walking and in general exercising than I have ever seen before. At the start, the PSP gave us helpful recommendations for building in more exercise into your daily routine such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking in the far corner of the parking lot so you have to walk a little farther. AETE members took this advice to the extreme...

Before the Step Challenge started, I was running about 20 to 25km per day but quickly realized that this meagre amount would not be enough. I soon increased by daily distance to three runs and closer to 30km per day with two to three longer runs per week after work. A typical long run of about 30 km would give me about 20,000 steps.

Number of steps walked in month of May 2018. CWO Howell walked about 1.5 million steps! (I'm in purple at just over 1 million).

On day 1, I ran past my friend, Jeeva who was walking to work. However, instead of parking in the AETE parking lot, he had parked at the Tri City Mall parking lot 5 miles away and was walking to work. It took him 1 hour and 20 minutes each way! One of my friends used the elliptical machine for 4 hours each day! John and JC even started going to the gym at 4 am and walking on the treadmill for 2 hours before work.

Overall Stats. Top blue line is daily max, middle green line is daily average and bottom yellow line is daily min.

Towards the end of the Step Challenge, John and JC set a goal to break the daily max steps. They started walking on the treadmill at 12 midnight and walked until 6 am, walked all morning and then came back in the evening and walked even more. John ended up doing 105,000 and JC did 107,500 steps, which is incredible. That is A LOT of steps! 

Conclusion

We are capable of so much more than we think. One of the biggest things that changed during May was that initially, if you were to tell me that I was going to run around 180km per week for 4 weeks straight, I'm not sure I would have believed you (the most I had ever done in my life before this was about 170 km per month). However, breaking it down into small chunks (goals), makes it a lot easier to accomplish. Like Jacob Puzey says, when the going gets tough, sometimes you just have to set your sights on running to the next lamppost. 

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

Why I Love to Run Commute

Why I Love to Run Commute

By: Matt Setlack

This article is the first in a three part series regarding my experience with the run commute. The goal of these three short articles will be to shed light on why anyone would want to partake in this activity and possibly encourage anyone who might be on the fence with respect to run commuting to take the plunge and go for it.

The series will be comprised of the following three parts:

  1. Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute? (see below)
  2. Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute (future article)
  3. Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges and How to Overcome Them (future article)

My Background

I have been run commuting to and from work practically every weekday for the past three years. I run all year around in temperatures as cold as -45C with the windchill in the winter and as warm as +35C in the summer. From mid-October to mid-February I run to and from work in the pitch dark. My run commute is approximately 10 miles round trip.

Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute?

If only I had a penny for every time someone told me, “You’re Crazy” when they see me run commuting in the winter, I would probably be a millionaire :) The fact of the matter is, I’m not crazy, it's a matter of perspective. If you picked me up and placed me in Canmore or Squamish (the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada), run commuting and exercising in general would not be out of place at all.

My personal reasons for running to and from work (aka: run commuting) in order of importance are as follows:

1.     More Efficient Use of Time – As a serious runner, I run every day. A few years ago, I drove a vehicle to work and then ran inside on the treadmill for 60+ minutes every day for hundreds of days on end. I would spend approximately 30 minutes total driving to/from work, which means I spent about 90 minutes total driving and running. With the run commute, I spend approximately 70 minutes running, which gives me 20 minutes PER DAY to do other things. Time, to me, is one of the most valuable commodities. We are all given 86,400 seconds every day, how you use them is up to you.

2.     I Enjoy Run Commuting - It Makes Me Feel Good – Ironically, running makes me feel more energetic instead of less energetic. People think that I must be really tired from running so much (I generally run around 130km (80 miles) per week) but in fact, I feel more tired when I don’t run. It’s a great way to start the day. You get to work and you’ve already completed one task (running to work) so now that you have the ball rolling, it is easier to keep the momentum up and be productive. You feel good when you know that you have travelled to a place under your own power instead of pressing a gas pedal. Run commuting is good for my health; it helps me maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. During a medical exam earlier this week, my resting heart rate was 37 beats per minute.

3.     It Saves Money - I abhor waste and continually strive to be as efficient as possible in all aspects of my life (efficiency with respect to time, money, energy, et al.). My wife, Emily and I share one vehicle (unusual by North American standards but perhaps typical or even excessive by European standards). When I first owned the car, it cost around $10,000 Canadian per year to own, which includes car payments, insurance, petrol and maintenance. Obviously, the cost of owning this car costs less now than it once did but remember that vehicle ownership is expensive. By run commuting, I ensure that Emily has the car so she can drive to school to teach. Even when Emily is away on vacation and the car is available to use, I still choose to run commute.

4.     Run Commuting is Better for the Environment than Driving – When you run, you don’t pollute the environment burning fossil fuels. Run commuting allows Emily and I to share one vehicle which means one less car on the road polluting the environment. Running is also a lot quieter than driving, especially compared to a jacked up mini-monster truck with a modified exhaust.

5.     Run Commuting Gives Me Time to Think – In the technologically advanced world that we live in with computers everywhere, phones ringing, emails coming in, etc, it is nice to “unplug” and just enjoy/embrace the sound of silence. You would be amazed at how many great ideas you come up with while running. I don’t listen to music on the run commute. I feel that it allows me to be more in tune with my body and it is also important to hear what is going on around you from a safety perspective.  

This short article has outlined the main reasons why I run commute. Please feel free to email me with any comments or suggestions. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute

Calgary Global Energy 10k Race

Calgary Global Energy 10k Race

By: Matt Setlack

While I was in Bulgaria, I came across a 10k race online where the 1st place finisher (both male and female) won an all expenses paid trip including airfare, accommodations and spending money to a Global Energy Race anywhere in the world. I immediately signed up.

On Sat 24 Sep, I drove 600km from Cold Lake to Calgary (1,200km round trip, 12 hours driving) and made sure that I arrived at Strides Running Store before 4 pm to pick up my number because I know based on previous experience (i.e. 2015 Edmonton 10k) that it is important to pick up your race number the day before the race. On the morning of the race, I made sure that I was parked at the event site 2 hours in advance of the start and at the start line 5 minutes before the start (10:15am).

I felt very fit standing at the start line as I had just came back from the World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria. During the two week Bulgaria trip I had also covered over 8,000m (26,240 ft) of vertical elevation gain and was ready to rock and roll. I showed up at the start line at 10:10am but there were only about 40 people at the start line (nobody was toeing the line and there were still 3k finishers coming across the finish line) so I asked a couple of nearby runners:

"Where is everyone? I thought the race was supposed to start at 10:15am", I asked.

The runners replied, "they just made an announcement and the race will now be starting at 10:30am because they are running behind schedule."

Not wanting to stand around at the start line for 20 minutes, I decided to quickly use the washroom. While I was in the washroom I heard "5, 4, 3, 2, 1...." and immediately thought, "that's odd, the 10k race is not supposed to be starting for another 15 mins". In any case, I quickly exited the washroom only to find the start area deserted. One of my initial thoughts was that those two runners I talked to must have been working for Jeremy Deere. I thought that maybe they wanted to give him an advantage.

In any case, I quickly ran back to the start line (the opposite direction to the race course), around the marshalling corrals and then across the timing mat. It was a little disheartening to be starting behind even before my race had started, to say the least. This little mishap cost me 32 seconds. By the time I wound my way through the masses, I could see someone in a white shirt who I thought was the race leader about 200-300m ahead of me (in retrospect, it turned out this person was actually in second place).

I eventually caught Geoff Hopfner (2nd place) around the 6k point. I couldn't catch Jeremy on that day though and according to chip time, he ran his race 6 seconds faster than I ran my race. I am still a bit in disbelief that this actually happened. I ended up taking home a $20 gift card to Walmart and a bag of Dempster's bagels so not all was lost. Regardless of how I placed, I am extremely impressed with how well the Calgary Global Energy Race was organized. I would definitely race it again and make sure that I don't leave the start line under any circumstances!

Don't believe everything you hear!

32nd World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria

32nd World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria

By: Matt Setlack

I had an incredible experience at the 32nd World Mountain Running Championships in Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria from 04 to 17 September 2016 and I would like to share it with you. My hope is that potential future mountain runners may be encouraged to get into the sport.

Selection

In order to compete at the Mountain Running World Championships (http://saparevabanya2016.info), I first had to qualify by competing in the Canadian Mountain Running Nationals, which was the Sea to Sky Scramble Trail Race in Squamish, BC (just north of Vancouver) on 25 Jun 2016 and place in the top 5 Canadian men. The race course at Nationals was about 6km (or 7.5 km?) with 1000m of elevation gain ("up only" race). The race courses switch ever year; one year it is an up only race and the next year it is an up and down race. I ended up placing 4th Canadian at Nationals.

For more info on Canadian Mountain Running, check out http://mountainrunning.ca/series.php

Near the start of the Sea to Sky Scramble Trail Run (Canadian Mountain Running Nationals)

Near the start of the Sea to Sky Scramble Trail Run (Canadian Mountain Running Nationals)

During the Race (PC: Emmanuel Mercier)

During the Race (PC: Emmanuel Mercier)

Pre-Race

The outgoing trip to Mountain Running Worlds in Bulgaria took about 17 hours (Edmonton-Toronto-Frankfurt-Sofia). I left Edmonton around 11 am Sun 04 Sep and arrived in Sofia around 1 pm Mon 05 Sep. On the way back I flew Sofia-Munich-Vancouver-Edmonton, which also took about 17 hours. Bulgaria (UTC + 3 hrs) is 9 hrs ahead of Alberta time. For the long outgoing leg (Toronto-Frankfurt), I flew in an Air Canada Boeing 747-400 and it took about 7.5 hours. On the long return leg (Munich-Vancouver) I flew in a Lufthansa Airbus A340-400 and it took about 10.5 hours. The bathrooms in this aircraft were around mid-cabin in the “basement/cargo hold”; to get to them, you had to take a staircase down about 10 steps and then there was a small hallway with three washroom on the left and two (or three?) washrooms on the right. They also had free wifi on board while you were flying! Slow but it still worked. 

Typical narrow side street in downtown Sofia

Typical narrow side street in downtown Sofia

I stayed in Sofia for the first three days. The time was spent sleeping, running in a city park and taking a free walking tour of Sofia. I met Kris and Shaun on Wed and we went out for dinner. I did not like Sofia very much and personally would not recommend spending more than a day there. I stayed downtown Sofia and it was challenging finding anywhere to run that is not on rock-hard sidewalks, dodging traffic/people and breathing in exhaust. Although I eventually found a nice park to run in (similar to Woburn Sands in the UK but not as nice), I felt like a caged bird running back and forth. On Thurs 08 Sep, we met the race organizers at the Sofia airport and drove 1.5 hrs on bus to Sapareva Banya. Stayed at small mountain “resort” nearby called Panichiste (half way up the mountain) on Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun night.

The hotel room where Kris, Mike and I stayed in Panichiste. Can you guess which bed is mine?

The hotel room where Kris, Mike and I stayed in Panichiste. Can you guess which bed is mine?

Canadian Mountain Running Team 2016

Everyone on the team was super friendly, had very positive energy and was willing to share their knowledge about the sport. It was very refreshing to spend time with athletes who are so passionate about running.

Canadian Mountain Running Team 2016 (Back Row L to R: Adele Blaise, Sue Lambert (Team Manager), Benoit Gignac, Mike McMillan, Kris Swanson, Mark Vollmer, Shaun Stephens-Whale, Emmanuel Mercier, Greg Hetterley. Front Row L to R: Aidan Doherty, Mirabelle Tinio, Marianne Hogan, Ashley Ramsay, Mitchell Cauchi, Matt Setlack) 

Canadian Mountain Running Team 2016 (Back Row L to R: Adele Blaise, Sue Lambert (Team Manager), Benoit Gignac, Mike McMillan, Kris Swanson, Mark Vollmer, Shaun Stephens-Whale, Emmanuel Mercier, Greg Hetterley. Front Row L to R: Aidan Doherty, Mirabelle Tinio, Marianne Hogan, Ashley Ramsay, Mitchell Cauchi, Matt Setlack) 

Before the race, I ran in a mountain trail shoe (Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 5) and a road racing flat (Brooks T7 Racer). Personally, I would definitely choose the racing flat for an up-only course every time unless the trail was super technical and/or muddy because it is much lighter (and weight seems to be very important in mountain running).

Around 3/5 of the way up

Around 3/5 of the way up

The crux of the route

The crux of the route

Yes, we had to run over the log

Yes, we had to run over the log

About 300m before the finish line

About 300m before the finish line

Bulgarian Food tasted amazing! Half the time I wasn't sure what I was eating (was it veal, schnitzel or something else?) but it still tasted awesome. While we were in Panachiste, the race organizers served us food, which I much preferred compared to buffet style. Usually there was a salad at first, then a main course and usually dessert.

Race Day

Race day was Sun 11 Sep 2016. The race started just before midday, which was perfect for me as I do not like races that start at 7am or earlier. The senior men ran 12.7km with 1380m up only. I paced myself by breathing out ever third step, which seemed to work fairly well. During the race, my ears popped while I was running up. I was really winded at the finish line. Towards the end the my vision was getting a little blurry (party from sweat dripping into my eyes) and I felt myself stumbling a bit on the rubbly ground. I crossed the line and immediately sat down on the ground (I have never done this ever before in a race). I was completely out of it. My whole body felt like a wet noodle. 

Canadian Senior Mens Team (L to R: Mike McMillan, Kris Swanson, Benoit Gignac, Mark Vollmer, Shaun Stephens-Whale, Matt Setlack)

Canadian Senior Mens Team (L to R: Mike McMillan, Kris Swanson, Benoit Gignac, Mark Vollmer, Shaun Stephens-Whale, Matt Setlack)

I finished the race in 1:16:38 placing 84th of 137 (4th of 6 Canadian men). Considering that this was my third ever mountain race, I was very happy to have placed in the top 2/3rds. I feel like I have a lot of potential with mountain running. I am very passionate about mountain running and I see myself improving a lot in the future. Mountain running is the purest sport on Earth.

Kris Swanson and I after the race.

Kris Swanson and I after the race.

After the race, it is customary to trade team uniforms with other countries. I didn't realize that this was going to happen during/after the closing ceremony so was not entirely prepared. I wore my Team Canada uniform to the ceremony and did not carry anything to trade (besides what was on my body). By the end of the night, I had traded almost everything I was wearing (minus the running shorts). Team Canada kit by Nike provided by Athletics Canada is amazing and was high value item. 

I am a big fan of singlets as I spend a lot of time running on the treadmill during the winter.

I am a big fan of singlets as I spend a lot of time running on the treadmill during the winter.

What did I Learn (a couple of many things)

1. Kris Swanson is very knowledgeable about the sport of mountain running and he passed on a lot of useful advice. He recommended that if you start hiking up the steep sections, always have a marker (tree, rock, bush) where the trail gets less steep so you don’t walk for too long. Everyone is hurting but it is important to keep moving fast.

2. The Company You Keep (Birds of a Feather Flock Together) - I have known this for a while but it was especially relevant during this World Championships…remember that you become the people that you spend time with so choose the people you hang around with wisely. I felt myself getting fitter just by spending two weeks with many of the greatest mountain runners in Canada (and the world). It doesn’t just affect the way you train but also the way you think (your attitude).

Thank You

I most certainly would not have had the incredible opportunity to compete at Worlds if it were not for the help of a number of key individuals. I would like to thank my beautiful, kind and caring wife, Emily for keeping me on the straight and narrow and always supporting me. Thank you to my coach, Steve Boyd for providing his running expertise and coaching guidance. Thank you for Sue Lambert for being the Team Manager and ensuring everything ran smoothly and to Adrian Lambert for his great contribution to the sport of mountain running in Canada. I would also like to thank the Canadian Armed Forces for allowing me to compete at Nationals and Worlds. Thank you to all my friends and family for their support.

Mountain running is something that I am very passionate about and I am eager to pass on all the knowledge I have. Please let me know if you have any questions and I would be happy to answer them.

Благодаря

Blagodarya (thank you)